Last November was the first time I started reading again in months. Prior to that, I had been swamped with a lot of work and I could feel that I was beginning to neglect one of my many guilty pleasures— reading.
It was a clear case of burn out and I needed to read a good book to help me shut myself out from my daily worldly woes.
Usually, the books that I end up finding are books with topics that I’m curious about. This time I wanted to know what it really feels like to be in space.
Come to think of it, this book has nothing to do with travel but it has everything to do with what we humans are genetically born to do. To keep exploring the universe —in order to evolve.
The first thing that caught my attention was the word “ENDURANCE” and a bald man in his space suit on the cover of the book. His name is Scott Kelly. An American astronaut who spent a year on the International Space Station (ISS).
I flipped to the back of the book and the first thing I saw was the name “Khaled Hosseini”. The author who wrote The Kite Runner and my other favorite books.
“A deeply absorbing and vivid look at a year in space. Endurance is replete with humour, thrills, surreal details and recurring moments of ordinary humanity that turn Kelly’s tale into a loving tribute to the pioneering individuals who risk all to shepherd man’s exploration of the vast beyond”. – Khaled Hosseini.
I was sold! FYI this is not one of the quotes of the book. I take it as Khaled Hosseini personally giving me the green-light-go to read it.
In the prologue, Kelly writes:
“The risk taking of my youth is still with me. My childhood memories are of the uncontrollable forces of physics, the dream of climbing higher, the danger of gravity. For an astronaut those memories are unsettling in one way but comforting in another. Everytime I took a risk, I lived to draw breath again. Everytime I get myself into trouble, I made it out alive”.
This is a tale about human determination despite difficult challenges in pursuit of success. In Kelly’s context, success means staying alive in space.
Here are some quotes I find most invaluable from several chapters in the book as well as from an author, Jeffrey Kluger who spoke in a short docu-series I watched on Youtube. A Year in Space by TIME.
“On my last flight to the space station, a mission of 159 days, I lost bone mass, my muscles atrophied, and my blood redistributed itself in my body, which strained and shrank the walls of my heart. More troubling, I experienced problems with my vision as many other astronauts have. I have been exposed to more than thirty times the radiation of a person on earth, equivalent to about ten chest x-rays everyday”.
In the book, Kelly talks about his time speaking to audiences about the ISS and why science is the reason behind all of it. It serves as a base for human species in order to learn more about how humans can go further into space.
This point had me rethinking of the sacrifices I might have made to be a step closer to living a fulfilling life. To be able to see as much as I can of this world.
My sacrifices won’t be nearly as big as Kelly’s. I mean the guy sacrificed his body and mind to gain insights on effects to the human body from living out in harsh space environment for a year. All for mankind to prepare going to Mars and come home in one piece.
To me, that’s the ultimate sacrifice with lots and lots of perseverance. Or shall I say Endurance?
For all the sufferring of their ordeal, the men discovered they enjoyed the self-reliance they had found. “In some ways they had come to know themselves better” author Alfred Lansing writes. “In this lonely world of emptiness, they had achieved at least a limited kind of contentment. They have been tested and found not wanting.
Isolation builds up to self-reliance. When we understand that in literal terms, our bodies are the universe. It’s easy to comprehend that we can, through our intentions, influence our environment and cause things to happen the way we want it to.
Despite all odds and challenges you eventually learn to understand who you truly are and what you are actually capable of.
In the epilogue, Kelly writes:
“I’ve learned how important it is to sit and eat with other people sitting down to eat a meal together. The sight moved me with an unexpected yearning. I suddenly longed to sit at a table with my family, just like the people on the screen, gravity holding a freshly cooked meal on the table’s surface so we could enjoy it, gravity holding us in our seats so we could rest”.
This here is pure gratitude. You don’t necessarily need to travel into the cosmos to feel that. But maybe we all need a tinge of extreme like Kelly’s year-long space experience. They say you don’t truly appreciate something until they are gone.
Quotes from A Year In Space by TIME
“You can’t be on one side of the hill without wondering what’s on the other side of the hill. If you ask why do we go to space you might as well ask why do we dance? why do we love football? Who cares. It accomplishes nothing. It does nothing that keeps you alive but its a big part of the reason we want to remain alive. And that I think is what space does in a larger, and grander, more ambitious way than any other enterprise any human being can undertake”. – Jeffrey Kluger, Editor at large of TIME and Co-Author of Apollo 13
If you consider this in your own personal life, it speaks about the very existence of humanity. Your very existence in this lifetime.
You don’t stop learning, you don’t stop traveling and explore places, you don’t stop being curious about anything and everything because once you do, you risk hindering that very reason why you are human in the first place. You risk hindering human evolution.
Parting thoughts on the book
Scott Kelly talks about his struggles and failures before becoming an astronaut. We can all agree that becoming an astronaut is not an easy feat. It sure wasn’t easy for him either.
When I was reading this book, there were many instances where he had failed more times than succeeding. Through it all, he never gave way to the failures. It’s no wonder why he is one of the few in the world who gets to feel what space really is like.
You’ll probably find this book truly inspiring and beneficial, allowing you to revisit some of your personal struggles and failures to get to where you are today. To want something takes patience. It will be difficult, harsh, unforgiving and unpleasant but most of all it will be rewarding
But I’m not about to spoiler-alert his amazing story here. (I’ve already spilled the beans earlier.) So you’re going to have to get your hands on the book yourself.